Words by Pat Eggleton
I arrived in Modica just two years before the death of Nino Baglieri and I did not know of him until I read of his passing in 2007. I then decided to find out more about this gentle man who had suffered so much, yet drawn so many to him.
Born in Modica in 1951, Nino Baglieri was seventeen when, on 6th March 1968, he fell from some scaffolding on which he was working. The accident left him tetraplegic and bitter. For ten years, Nino Baglieri lived in self-imposed isolation and cursed God and his fate.
Then, on Good Friday 1978, during a prayer meeting in his house, Nino found acceptance and God again. From that moment he offered his suffering to Jesus and became a member of the San Giovanni Bosco Salesians, a movement which reaches out to the young and poor.
Nino could move only his head and, using a pen held in his mouth, he began to write. He wrote of his suffering, his faith and his hope. He corresponded with thousands of people all over the world, offering advice and solace to others who were suffering as he did. He published two books, “Dalla sofferenza alla gioia” [“From Suffering to Joy”] and “In cammino verso la luce” [“On the Path to Light”]. Accompanied by his brother-in-law Paolo he travelled both in Italy and abroad to spread his message of the mercy of Christ and of love.
In his home town of Modica, Nino had many friends of all ages and I am told by someone who used to go to see him that it was the visitors who derived comfort from Nino and not the other way around.
Nino Baglieri died on 2nd March 2007, surrounded by his family and friends. He had asked for a tracksuit and sports shoes to be placed on his bed so that at last he could run into the arms of God.
On his death bed he wrote:
“Non ho bisogno più di niente, nè di letto nè di carrozzina o di qualcuno che mi spinge. Ora sono libero, posso andare e correre dove voglio.”
“I no longer need anything, not a bed nor a wheelchair nor someone to push me. Now I am free and I can go and run where I please.”
A few days later over 3,000 people attended Nino Baglieri’s funeral and in 2008 a half-marathon charity race was inaugurated in Modica in his memory.
Whenever the statue of San Giorgio is carried through the town on feast days, a stop is made outside Nino’s family home and, far from being a sad occasion, this is an opportunity for the Modicani to remember the happiness that this other, unofficial saint brought them: people, applaud and joyfully shout, “Nino, Nino!” I cannot help feeling that this is what Nino Baglieri would have wanted.
You can watch more photos of Nino Baglieri in the following video: